Magical night for social care heroes

The achievements of an inspirational college principal crowned a “magical” awards ceremony.

Darren Jackson, the Principal of Beechwood College, in Sully, South Wales  struck gold twice
at the Wales Care Awards during a glittering ceremony at Cardiff City Hall.

The Oscars-style evening is organised by Care Forum Wales to honour the unsung heroes and heroines of social care across the country.

Beechwood College is Wales’ first and only residential college of further education catering for children, young people and adults with an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC).

Darren, 36, won the gold ‘Peter Clarke Award’ for promoting excellence in services for children and
young people and was also named as the prestigious winner of the ‘Spirit of Care Award’ in the final award of the night.

Darren started his career as an art and design teacher before progressing within the field of special
education and is now a key figure in raising awareness among professionals and the public of the special and often complex needs of those with an ASC.

He has featured as an expert on TV and radio and in newspapers while the College has provided free training and workshops to teachers, professionals and parents across the UK.

Darren was overwhelmed after his double success “in the presence of so many remarkable colleagues from across the vast sector of care.”

He said :”I am incredibly passionate about the role I play in supporting those with complex needs.”

It was also a big night for Linda Jones from the slate quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog  after she picked up a double Welsh “gold.”

Judges said that mother-of-three Linda Jones embodies all that is admirable in the sector.

She received shared the prestigious Dignity in Care Award, sponsored by the Welsh Government, and the Leading Practice in Learning Disability Services Award.

Linda is Managing Director of the aptly-named company, Seren Ffestiniog (Star of Ffestiniog), which she established in 1996 to provide care, jobs and a future for those with learning difficulties.

From that humble beginning with just two employees and helped with a grant of £5,000, it has grown to a caring business looking after 34 people with learning difficulties with 52 full time employees.

Among the facilities provided by Seren is a small furniture business which locals have affectionately dubbed ‘Harrods’ which renovates donated furniture and also buys new furniture “for sale to Blaenau people at prices they can afford”, a craft workshop and shop where cards and artwork are sold,  and a clothing shop, all giving jobs to adults with learning difficulties.

There is also a garden nursery supplying local shops, including hanging baskets and kindling along with a house where four men with learning difficulties are tenants in their own right.

Her latest project is a 3-star, ten en-suite bedroom hotel for people with learning difficulties and their families to come for holidays or breaks.

The three other joint winners of the Dignity in Care Award were Gerry Humphreys, Karen Woods and Peter Gough.

Gerry, the Activities Manager of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham, found herself
nominated for not one but two awards.

As well as the gold Dignity in Care award, she was awarded a silver for the Promoting Fulfilled
Lives Award.

“No one can be unhappy when Gerry is around” was how Malcolm Crosbie described Gerry when he nominated her.

As the husband of retired civil servant Audrey, 82, an Alzheimer sufferer and resident at Pendine’s
Highfield home he had seen her winning ways first hand.

Gerry has set up a swimming club for residents, ladies go to ballet performances, some of the men
go to football matches. There are visiting musicians and choirs.

Swansea nurse Karen whose hobby is sea-fishing netted her best haul to date with a double success at the  prestigious awards ceremony.

Along with the Dignity in Care accolade, she also won gold in the Nurse of the Year category.

Karen is the registered manager at the Three Cliffs Care Home in Penmaen, South Gower, which
is owned by Heart of Wales Ltd. The home is one of the few which caters specifically for people with dementia and has 50 residents.

She was nominated for the award by the home’s Operations Manager Tom Watson who said
her expertise in the field had made a huge difference to everyone.

“Every day Karen demonstrates her enthusiasm and commitment to the residents of Three
Cliffs Nursing Home, and involves everyone in all aspects of their lives, ensuring individuals have as much choice as they are able to elect, and are always afforded dignity and respect,” he wrote.

Peter Gough, from Ammanford, was a double winner just  two years after having to face a change of career.

He was named as joint winner of the bronze award in the category for Promoting Fulfilled Lives but he was even more stunned when he was also presented with the gold award for Dignity in Care.

Peter, a care assistant at the Cartref Annwyl Fan Home in Betws, took the job because he was desperate for work after his steel plating business folded.

The home’s manager,  Gail Davies, said: “Peter is the salt of the earth – hard-working, reliable, trustworthy and above all, he cares.

“He treats each and every resident as an individual and is always promoting their views and wishes. He also maintains dignity and privacy at all times.”

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths AM, who presented the awards, paid tribute to the work of Care Forum Wales in promoting dignity in care.

She said: ” It’s a time to recognise the excellent work that is taking place across Wales and an opportunity to shine a light on this practice so that others can see and follow.

“Tonight is an opportunity to recognise all those who have been nominated, to recognise your commitment and efforts and impact on others.

“It’s a celebration of the achievements of all of you who make a day to day impact on the lives of older people and how, in everything you do,  you ensure that their dignity is at the heart.”

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said there was a record number of nominations and
the standard was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists
will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them all.”







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